“Israel has a right to defend herself,” Pres. Barack Obama.
As long as Hamas and others use violence to achieve their legitimate aims of independence and statehood, they continue to play into Israel’s hands. The collective guilt of the holocaust will always force Americans and Europeans to support Israel if it is attacked. The pathetic rockets fired into Israel by Hamas factions are little better than firecrackers. In the current hostilities they have caused three Israeli casualties. The retaliation on the part of Israel has been wildly disproportionate. Palestinian casualties are now approaching 2000. A Palestinian military solution is not feasible. It is suicide.
A better course of action would be to initiate legal action to recover damages due to the annexation of Palestinian land and seek reparations from Israel in those countries where Israel does business. Winning judgments would allow Palestine to seize Israeli assets that are held in foreign banks. But before that can happen, Palestine must become a country.
Most countries (and also Israel at various times) have agreed that Palestine and Israel should be divided along the lines of the 1947 Partition, the borders that existed before the 1967 war. These borders were vastly unfair to Palestinians at the time—they ceded 56% of the land to Israel. But, worse than that, the four sections came together at a point like a pinwheel. It was inevitable that the militarily superior country would control that intersection, and after the Six Day War in 1967, Israel created a wide corridor between Gaza and the West Bank, shrunk Gaza, took over the Palestinian province of Acre and Syrian land in the Golan Heights, shrunk the West Bank and, most significantly, took the city of Jerusalem. Not only do they not intend to give most of that land back, they have since been steadily building settlements in the West Bank and establishing an Israeli presence there. Palestinians feel they are being systematically eliminated.
It is useless to engage in negotiations with Israel. Palestinians have nothing Israel is interested in. Meaningful negotiations take place from positions of mutual strength and respect: you have something they want; they have something you want; you negotiate and you trade. If the Palestinians have anything the Israelis want, the Israelis simply take it—land, water, olive trees, etc. The Palestinian town of Najd was taken over by Israeli soldiers in 1947. The Palestinians were driven out, and it became the Israeli town of Siderot. It is less than a mile from Gaza, so Palestinians routinely fire rockets into Siderot to remind the Israelis that they still lay claim to the town. In the 1961 Census, the town was 87% Moroccan immigrants and 11% immigrants from Romania. Palestinians claim the Israelis are using the new immigrants as human shields to push the Palestinians into the Sea.
Mahmoud Abbas, the nominal President of Palestine, got U N Observer Status for Palestine in 2012. He then formed a unity government with Hamas, and that, many believe, was the real motivation for the current Israeli military action. But a single state of Palestine made up of two parts that are not physically connected doesn’t make sense. It would make much better sense if Gaza and the West Bank became distinct and separate states. Yes, they are both Palestinian. But they actually have quite a different cultural history. Gaza was probably the first colonial outpost of the Egyptian dynasties, very sophisticated. The West Bank was pastureland for sheep, very rural. During the Biblical period Jerusalem was a small village. The Israelites never had designs on Gaza, but they did covet much of the land on the West Bank.
Let Mahmoud Abbas and Netanyahu argue about the West Bank, Gaza should take immediate steps to become a separate country. It was the U. N. Partition that created Gaza, so the U. N. should be able to recognize its own creation. Hamas has said it won’t recognize Israel until Israel recognizes the 1947 territorial borders of Gaza. Israel won’t recognize Gaza until Gaza recognizes Israel. This childish standoff only benefits Israel and the occupying settlers on Palestinian land. It’s time for Hamas to move beyond this silly name-calling and desperate rocket fire and move toward recognition of their legitimate right to exist as a country. They must send a delegation to the United Nations this fall and make a formal request for recognition. In order to do that, they must cease all military operations. It would be unreasonable to ask them to disarm, unless Israel was also willing to disarm.
There are generally four criteria for establishing the legitimacy of a nation state: a permanent population; a defined territory; one government; and the ability to enter into relations with other governments. The population of Gaza has been constant for 4000 to 5000 years. The territory was defined by the U. N. Partition in 1947; surely, the U. N. should recognize its own creation. The government in Gaza was democratically elected in 2006, and the P. L. O. faction began a civil war to overthrow that government which was won by Hamas. Relations with other governments: Hamas must stop trying to negotiate with Israel and begin to seek legitimacy on the world stage.
There would be strong international support for a separate country of Gaza, with its own port and airport, and Gaza could ask the U. N. to send troops to monitor their borders. At the same time Gaza must join the World Court and begin legal action against Israel for damages due to the occupation and annexation of Palestinian land. A judgment against Israel would be recognized in all countries that recognize the World Court, and then Gaza lawyers could begin actions in each of those countries where Israel is doing business and sue them for damages.
It’s time to stop putting women and children in the line of fire. Let lawyers fight it out in courtrooms in London, Paris, Oslo, Brussels and New York City.
The three state solution
“Israel has a right to defend herself,” Pres. Barack Obama.